Bob is the leader of company X. He inherited the company from his father, and functions as a CEO for 2 years now. He’s struggling with his role, and took some leadership courses. But people within the management team, just don’t accept Bob as the leader.
He calls me on a Saturday afternoon, really confused and depressed. We agree to meet, and Bob shows up looking tired. He looks like a man that has not slept for a week. As soon as he starts to talk, I just listen to him and observe his actions.
Bob is an extremely nice guy. He cares about the people, cares about the legacy of his father, and worries himself sick about the future of the company. “I just don’t know how to get there” is a sentence he uses multiple times.
Within his story, he detailes a very common situation: His father was a dominant man and the people within the organisation obeyed him. After his father died suddenly, Bob was left with this company, but did not exactly inherit the personality of his dad. Logically, because dominant people, rarely raise dominant children.
The management team, consisting of 5 experienced people, smell his doubt and tried to take over the company. To be very precise, they offered to do what we call a ‘Management Buyout’. Bob, not being very dominant, but very sensitive, didn’t think that felt good. He wanted to honour his fathers legacy and keep the company in family property. That is what his father would have wanted.
In our sessions, I have asked Bob very simple questions. “Where do you want the company to be in 5 years?” “Why should people go there with you?” And ultimately: “Why are you trying to find out how to get there?”
Especially this last question, took him some time. “Why I try to find out how to get there? I’m the boss, that’s my job isn’t it?” On which I replied “Is it?” I have explained Bob the same as I did to you in the first article of the Leadership Lessons series: Definition
. “If you go on a vacation, you say: I want to go to Dubai. But do you buy your own aircraft and fly there? No you don’t, because you are not a pilot. Still: you decide where to go.
Same as within the company. You lead the way and explain people why they should join you on this trip. And then ask them a simple question: ‘How do you think we should get there?’ People do want to be a problem-owner, but only within their competence field. So you tell the collective were to go, and if they believe you and are motivated in the right way, they will combine powers and get you there. Don’t try to figure out all by yourself. Because you can’t.
Bob gathered the whole company in a meeting and presented the history of the company. He opened up about his worries and doubts and told people he just is not the same as his father. But he does know that if they all combine powers, the future looks good. He presented his view on the 5 year strategy and opened up the room for suggestions on how to get there. People applauded, were enthusiastic and contributed with incredible great ideas. Bob changed his behaviour by opening up about his insecurities, stating his vision and accepting help from other people. This created an opportunity for him to lead the company in a different, but good way.
Being a leader is a very responsible and difficult task. Don’t make it any more difficult by doing everything alone. You are not weak when asking for help, and certainly not for accepting other peoples expertise. It is all about changing behaviour and showing how you lead.